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Solo Traveling the Massachusetts North Shore: Newburyport and Plum Island

This past November, I took a little solo adventure through the Massachusetts North Shore region. If you'd like to catch up on all the beautiful little towns I was able to explore, you can click on these links:


On my way home after a wonderful few days exploring the North Shore, I decided to squeeze in one more little side excursion: Newburyport and Plum Island. I didn't really have a lot of time because I still had my drive home ahead of me, but I was up yet again before the sun, and drove off to Newburyport to walk around and get a quick little feel for the town, and then off to explore Plum Island, which I've heard was so beautiful.



I didn't really do a whole lot in Newburyport - mostly just wandered the main town area and the waterfront park, but I had a really nice little morning and afternoon. The shops here were awesome. I think I wanted to buy something at every store I visited, and walking down State Street had me feeling like I was on a small-town movie set. I just loved it. So, I don't have much information to share, but just a few snapshots of my quick visit.












Once the National Wildlife Refugee opened for the day, I was back in my car, and headed for Plum Island. One of the things that threw me off a bit was the drive. It was gorgeous, but I was waiting for the moment you get when you enter an island - usually you just know when you've arrived because you have to cross a bridge or the surroundings just suddenly say, "You're here!" But on my drive from Newburyport to Plum Island, I never had that moment. I was just driving along on the roads, and at some point I was like, "Am I here? That sign says I'm here." There isn't really a grand entrance to the island.

Guys, Plum Island is gorgeous. It's very, very small, but I can see it as the perfect destination to really get away from it all. It's mostly residential, with only a few hotels available, but it has some stunning beaches and wildlife viewing areas that really allow you to connect with nature. You're surrounded by salt marshes for miles, and it was just calm and beautiful.

Since I was short on time, I decided to visit the Parker River National Wildlife Refugee and walk the Hellcat Interpretive Trail, which sounds like a death-defying hike, but it's actually a really easy boardwalk stroll through the refugee. It's a great way to get acquainted with the island because it takes you through the woods, marshes and sand dunes, and there are some observation areas along the way that give you spectacular views. The whole thing actually made me feel like I was back on Prince Edward Island - they have very similar landscapes in some ways.

Side note: During my last night on the North Shore, I definitely lost my tripod adapter (the piece that connects your camera to the actual tripod) in the ocean. I saw it fall through some rocks while I was taking pictures on a jetty, and I had that moment of "It didn't fall, it definitely didn't fall. Oh yeah, it's gone - I'm never seeing it again." So, I had a hard time taking decent photos while in Newburyport/Plum Island, but I was able to snap a few. Also, for the record, this is like, the eighth tripod adapter piece I've lost. Josh is never surprised when it happens any more. 




Weird angle courtesy of no tripod and attempting to be creative. I just wanted to show you how tall the grass was.




After walking the trail, I drove back toward the entrance, and stopped at a few of the pull-off's to take in the views and spot some birds, which is a popular thing to do here. I saw so many photographers walking around with giant telephoto lenses hoping to see some, and felt kind of silly when I whipped out my little 16-55mm lens to try and get a picture of these birds that were very, very far away.

A blurry little capture of some of the birds you can see on the island. Bring a telephone or zoom lens with you if you have one.



Before I left the refugee, I went for a walk on one of the beaches. I don't know the name of it because it wasn't marked on the map, but after entering the park, it's the first parking area on your left. The beach was gorgeous, and since I lucked out with another beautiful day in the high 60s (in November) with lots of sunshine, it was so great to walk along the shoreline for a bit before my drive home.

You know you're in for only good things when this is in front of you.





After leaving the park, I just drove around the island for a bit, but since I got there so early, and because it was off-season, not much else was open, so I started to head back to Newburyport. I pulled off the side of the road to take in views of the famous Pink House (which you can't miss on your right as you drive onto the island). The story behind this house is actually kind of funny. It was built in the midst of a divorce in the 1920s, and as part of the divorce settlement, the wife demanded that her husband build her an exact replica of the home they shared together in Newburyport, on the island. Which he did. In the middle of a salt marsh. Far outside town. It was completely uninhabitable because even the plumbing used salt water, not fresh water. I've read different things online that it did, at one point, have actual owners, but as it stands now, it's completely vacant, and owned by the National Wildlife Refugee. It's been slated to be torn down a few times, but the locals have rallied together and pleaded to keep it in tact. It seems that it will stay that way for a while. It's a beautifully sad little building, and probably one of the most photographed things on the island. 




So, on that note, I was off to Newburyport again to grab lunch before my drive home. I decided to eat outside at Sea Level, which was really good. I got a table outside overlooking the waterfront park while the sun was shining, and light breezes pushed the leaves off the trees, and they danced around and even landed on my table as they fell to the ground. It was one of those perfect afternoons that you can't possibly forget. 

I'm so sad that this is my last North Shore recap! This little adventure was a really great way to say goodbye to fall and mentally prepare myself for a long winter in lockdown. And now that February is coming to an end, I'm even more grateful that I had this experience - I'm already getting itchy to have another adventure. I'd forgotten how beautiful this little corner of the world is and every day, was so relaxing and inspiring. I wish I could do the whole trip over again - I would in a heartbeat. 

* I traveled to this destination during the COVID-19 pandemic and took all necessary and optional precautions. During the limited traveling I have done during the pandemic, I took the responsibility of not only my own health, but also the health of those around me. I planned excursions and activities that were all outdoors, avoided coming within even 12 feet of another person, relied on take-out at restaurants where I could safety eat outside far from others, or back at my room at the inn where everything had been sanitized and aired-out. Safety during this trip was incredibly important to me, and please know that it was always at the forefront of my mind. 

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